Gardens gets new life for TV

Hockey players will soon be skating again at Maple Leaf Gardens. They’ll be figure skating, but there they’ll be, on the same ice that Toronto’s hockey legends once called home.

And the public will have the chance for one more peak inside the venerable, yellow-bricked hockey palace on Carlton St.

In a neat twist, the CBC announced yesterday that Battle of the Blades, a new show featuring former NHLers paired with world-class female champions in a figure skating competition, will air live from the Gardens beginning Oct. 4.

For each of the 14 nights of competition, a studio audience of 3,000 will be in the lower bowl, sitting either in the remaining original seats, in new bleachers or on pads where the seats have been removed.

The Leafs left the Gardens in 1999 and while limited events and movie shoots have been held there since, the building has mostly gathered dust.

Pipes under the cement used for ice making are plugged and there is no longer a working compressor, so organizers will use the technology from the NHL’s outdoor games to create the ice surface.

The Leafs’ old dressing room is being restored to its former glory and will be used by the players, which was a selling point when CBC went looking for participants. It will be especially nostalgic for the likes of Tie Domi and Glenn Anderson, former Leafs who will be competing.

“We think the public will want to have another look at the Gardens,” said Kevin Albrecht, the show’s creator. “We’re fixing up the Hot Stove Lounge and we’ve totally redone the Leafs’ dressing room, putting in stalls to make it look like it did in the `60s and `70s.

“A couple of the players said, `I’ve got goosebumps thinking about going back in there.'”

It has not been decided how much tickets will cost, but money raised by the event will be donated to charity.

Paul Hunter
Toronto Star